Witness in Spite of Himself
Like the Bible, Victor Klemperer’s diaries have been used to shore up sundry, sometimes contradictory arguments. Who were ordinary Germans, and what was their relationship to Hitler? How did they interact with Nazi anti-Semitism? How much did they know about the genocide of Jews, and when? Why didn’t more Jews leave Germany while the Reich was still pushing for this? On these and other questions, the honesty of Klemperer’s day-to-day record leads to incongruities, over time. Rich and complex, the diaries do not often allow a single interpretation on the matters they concern most. Since we have so few authentic sources from the time, Klemperer’s diaries provide us with a rare view from behind the curtains of everyday life in the Third Reich.
KeywordsEurope Assimilation Stake Hate Amaze
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- 1.Viktor Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen bis zum letzten, ed. Walter Nowojski (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1996).Google Scholar
- and Victor Klemperer, I will Bear Witness, trans. Martin Chalmers, 2 vols. (New York: Random House, 1998, 2000). Martin Chalmers’s careful translation of Klemperer is often excellent considering how extraordinarily challenging this is. For example, Chalmers in one instance translates the word ‘geistig’ as ‘spiritual’, a term that seems odd for the atheist Klemperer, who steadfastly refuses the comfort of believing in death, does not use terms like ‘soul’ and relies only on fate to deliver miracles. This translation is nevertheless acceptable in its context, given the general tenor of Klemperer’s struggle to adapt to his environment by mid-1942 (29 August 1942).Google Scholar
- 3.See Klemperer’s diaries, 1945–1949 and 1950–1959, Viktor Klemperer, So sitze ich denn zwischen allen Stühlen, ed. Walter Nojowski (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1999).Google Scholar
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